… and then there was that time that Best Western won

Merry Christmas from Cave City, KY!

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Christmas has brought us joy and cheer, beautiful scenery, and now free wifi and a non-smoking room before the final leg of the late 2013 great Florida adventure. Aside from the disappointment of landing in a dry county on Christmas night, the Best Western in Cave City is surprisingly choice when compared to the layover lodgings on the way down. I warned you there was a story about the Ramada in Nashville… here are the cliff notes, based on the qualities I look for in a one-night hotel stay:

Passing through traffic-free Hotlanta
Passing through traffic-free Hotlanta

Wifi:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – Yes.

Clean linens and no visible sign of bed bugs:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – Yes.

Fitness Center:

BW – No.

Ramada – One treadmill and one recumbent bike count as a fitness center, right?

A clean bathtub:

BW – Yes.

Ramada – We were booked in the only handicapable room despite having a reservation, so no soak in the tub for me.

Parking:

BW – In front of the room; included.

Ramada – Parking lot in front of the hotel; the staff attempted to charge us $40 for overnight parking due to a football game across the street at the stadium at 3pm. Check out was at 11am. After copious threatening tweets we arose in the morning and asked to speak with the manager. Parking was ultimately $10 + a headache.

Presence of a famous indoor guitar-shaped swimming pool:

BW – No.

Ramada – Yes. But there’s no water in it and it smells like feet.

Cost:

BW – $65 + tax.

Ramada – $89 + tax + the $40 parking debacle.

Sunset behind Tennessee hills.
Sunset behind Tennessee hills.

Ok, so it might be slightly unfair to compare price between Cave City and Nashville, but Hotwire called this a downtown hotel, which was neither accurate nor fair.

Lessoned learned are the following:

1) Don’t book hotels on Hotwire.

2) I should lower my expectations of Ramada.

3) Guitar-shaped pools are overrated.

A travel oddity…

I’ve been through the airport lots of times.  I know exactly what I can and cannot bring on an airplane.  I’ve read all the signs at security.  I have a variety of 1 oz. samples of toothpaste and shampoo that all fit in my resealable plastic bag.  I’ve got carry-on organization and metal-free airport fashion down to a science.  But a recent flight to Charlotte en route to Florida was the first time I’ve ever seen this:

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Huh?  How come old people don’t have to take off their shoes?  Does TSA fear they’ll fall over and break a hip, holding up the line even further?  What makes them think seniors aren’t just as capable of hijacking a plane as I am?  Does anyone else see the injustice in this?  I’m all for respecting my elders, but airport rules should be ubiquitously enforced.

Someone incapable of removing his/her shoes probably shouldn’t be flying anyway…

The do’s and don’ts of group travel

I learned a lot about people on my trip to Sturgis.  Traveling with a big group can present its challenges, but it can also make for a safe and enriching experience that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.  Though not typically one for etiquette guides, these are the lessons I’ve picked up during my years of travel.

Disclaimer: Sturgis was a lovely trip.  Big thank you’s go out to the fearless leaders who organized the trip, the gracious followers, and a big cheers that we all have come out of it with friendships in tact.

The lookout point for Devil’s Tower, WY. These happy, smiley faces are having a winner vacation because we all followed the do’s and don’ts of group travel

Lauren’s guide to safe and happy travels in groups:

DO pick your battles.  Traveling in large groups is a lesson in diplomacy.  DON’T be that one chick who argues about everything. But, this is your vacation too.  So if you’re not happy with a group decision to the point that it affects your good times, speak up.  Otherwise, learn to let it go.

DO pick a leader, and

DON’T be a jerk if the leader is you.  Check with the group and, if it comes down to it, take a vote, draw straws, play rock-paper-scissors.  Again, group travel is a lesson in diplomacy.  And democracy.  Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean that it’s your job to make all the decisions.

DO have an itinerary, and

DO share it with the ENTIRE group, but

DO let people stray from it.  We’re all adults here.  Establish meeting places and times, put them on printed out itineraries, and then divide and conquer.  A group can get real hostile real fast if you spend too much time together, and many friendships have been broken up over a vacation.  That’s lame.

DON’T forget to pitch in.  Even if you’re not a leader or a naturally assertive person, don’t be afraid to put your hand in and help.  Vacation is work, especially in a big group, and no one appreciates you coasting while we’re busy taking out the trash and washing dishes.  If you can’t get anywhere verbally (e.g. “Can I help?  Anything I can do?” doesn’t always get a task assigned to you… the leader will say, “No I got it”) just dive in and do something.

DO embrace the group experience.  Be a joiner and recognize that your great lodging and awesome excursions might not have been possible without the support (financial, that is) of the group.  It’s also way safer, especially when you’re traveling in places that are out of cell phone range.

That said, DON’T forget to create your own experience.  This is your vacation too.  If there’s something you want to see or do, do it.